Election 2017 now a drag race to the finish, PM English says after Dunne quits politics; Calls on wayward Nats to return home (vote-wise); Raises risk of losing prosperity built up last 9 years

By Alex Tarrant

Election 2017 is now a drag-race to the finish, Prime Minister Bill English says.

Addressing media after Peter Dunne announced he was quitting politics this election, English thanked the UnitedFuture leader for his service, but then launched into a critique of the campaign so far.

Profile-driven politics, a wayward alternative government and the risk of losing the prosperity built up under National’s nine years were all targets. English appealed to former National voters who might be leaning to New Zealand First or Labour to return home.

New Zealand First is still considered in the rag-tag bunch of opposition parties, with English saying National isn’t conceding anything to Winston Peters’ lot ahead of the election. Dunne’s decision, rather than being a roadblock for National to form the next government, was more a small blip. That mood for change Dunne was sensing? National had always been expecting this election to be tough.

On your marks…

“Looking ahead from here, it’s clearer with these developments and those that have occurred among the Opposition parties, that the election is a drag-race between those who support New Zealand going in the right direction and building on it, and the Opposition parties who represent a pretty ill-defined alternative,” English said in Parliament buildings Monday afternoon.

National would carry on trying to maximise the party vote, with the ructions of recent weeks hopefully boosting that now, he said. “There’ll now be a few more voters out there who understand that if they want to support the current direction and the success of New Zealand, then they’ll be more likely to vote for National than for the other smaller parties, if that was their intention.”

“On the Left, we’ve seen a lot of changes. Voters respond to what they think are going to maximise the chances of their party winning. And I think you’ll see the same thing here,” he said.

“People who may have been drifting off from National to New Zealand First or some of them drifting off to Labour because of the profile in the media, they’ll start thinking, ‘right, if it’s a bit harder for National to win, I want to support New Zealand going in the right direction then I better vote for them’.”

Get set…

Was English worried about losing friends on the Right? “We have a lot of voters though. And that’s what makes a lot of difference. And on the Left, the parties who are meant to be partners seem to be cannibalising each other.”

What about Peters? Is it now time to concede that he isn’t just ‘one of those Opposition parties’ and might be key to English being able to form a government after 23 September? “No, we don’t concede that. We’re working hard to lift our party vote because we would want to form a strong government after September 23. And if we can successfully lift our vote then that is a real possibility.”

While Dunne may have picked up on some changing mood in Ohariu, English said National had always expected a tough fight in the party vote stakes: “We’ve always approached this election as a tough election to win. One where we have to go out there and earn the support. It’s been the case three or four weeks ago that if you added up the votes of the other parties, they could potentially change the government. So, in that sense our task hasn’t changed.”

Go(ne).

Dunne’s decision was Dunne’s decision. National didn’t have a say in it, nor the timing. The UnitedFuture leader had rung English Monday morning to tell him the news. Would English had preferred the decision was made before he and Brett Hudson had sent out letters calling on Ohariu voters to vote for Dunne over Hudson?

“Well, you don’t get these choices, do you. But at least we don’t have to change every billboard in the country, as both the Greens and Labour have set out to do and haven’t yet managed,” he said.

“He’s decided to step down and that’s a matter for him. But look, that decision’s been made now. Our candidate will be up and running, he’ll be well organised and we welcome the campaign over the next four or five weeks in this, pretty well-defined race.

“New Zealand’s doing well, going in the right direction and people have the choice of voting to build on that, or some pretty ill-defined alternative. In that context, this is just one small change in the environment.”


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100 Comments

Gee, the minder didn't look happy at all.

Yes - the lies have come home to roost. The farmer is a dead man walking.

He won't be inviting Todd around for qny late night dinners.

Ther will be another leadership change in this crazy election after Sept.

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“Looking ahead from here, it’s clearer with these developments and those that have occurred among the Opposition parties, that the election is a drag-race between those who support New Zealand going in the right direction and building on it, and the Opposition parties who represent a pretty ill-defined alternative."

So if National's do-nothing governance underpinned by an astronomical debt binge for the last nine years are what they consider "going in the right direction," then what the hell do they consider the wrong direction?

And what's National's definition of "prosperity" that has been "built up?" The highest house prices compared to income in the developed world? The highest youth suicide rate in the developed world? Our stagnant wages? Our increasing inequality? Our increase in the homeless numbers? The fact that the NZ economy is reliant on selling houses to each other and has little productivity?

So if National's do-nothing governance underpinned by an astronomical debt binge for the last nine years are what they consider "going in the right direction," then what the hell do they consider the wrong direction?And what's National's definition of "prosperity" that has been "built up?" The highest house prices compared to income in the developed world? The highest youth suicide rate in the developed world? Our stagnant wages? Our increasing inequality? Our increase in the homeless numbers? The fact that the NZ economy is reliant on selling houses to each other and has little productivity?

The "prosperity" he is referring to is all about house prices, which form the majority of "wealth" in NZ. He's making suggestions to the sheeple that if National goes, the money tree approach to running the economy might disappear. Psychological manipulation of the masses is important. I, for one, believe that they are bricking themselves about what lies ahead, particularly in markets and financial stability.

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Nailed it. It would be quite poetic justice for National to get a fourth term, only for them to have to stand on the stage shuffling their feet and explain to the country why we're in a recession and how it's all Labour's fault.

That thought has crossed my mind in the odd unguarded moment or three

Yes, while one of the engines is rusty, the other is refreshed and ready to go

Hi Wildcard,

Better the devil you do know than the devil you don't know.

Vote Labour - and you might end up with Winston as Prime Minister....... and, by the way, he has more experience in Cabinet than the entire Labour front bench combined.

When all else fails resort to FUD.

I'd back Winnie to run rings around them for at least the first two years. Might be quite fun to watch though.

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That's a cop out argument, and you know it. So you would rather see National in for another term and for them to continue ruining NZ, but at least you can console yourself with the fact that Labour could potentially be worse?

I'd personally rather see Labour or Winnie get in and try to make a difference to improve NZ as a country and fail, because I can respect their effort. They at least care and give a sh!t about other people. National doesn't give a damn about anyone who except the 45+ property investor brigade.

Hi Wildcard,

Winston has always been lazy (and poorly informed) when it comes to the real work of Government. Plenty of people have seen him literally asleep when the big decisions are being made - in Select Committees and in the House. He's really only in it for the politicking.

Now he's old (over 70 years) as well as lazy. Only one more term to go - probably.

For sure, he'd be a real hands-off Prime Minister - and a lot more interested in the perks than the policy.

Of course, he'd never last 3 years as PM - but he'd cause chaos before he went. Oh my goodness.......

Vote National - and you might end up with Winston as Prime Minister.

Not as much fun though, their front bench has experience.

at what?
when i look at the national front bench, 1/2 i would not let mow my lawn, i like straight lines

In the job share trader, in the job. It's just the fact of matter.

But experience without achievement seems a little insubstantial.

Labour couldn't lie straight in bed......

No - the Nats would never have Winston as PM!

They'd rather spend 3 years in opposition - more than enough time for Labour and NZF to implode - and then become Government again.

Remember, Winston's not a serious politician - but a good entertainer nonetheless. Undeniably, he has charisma to burn. A magnet to the chattering classes and all the unsophisticated thinkers.

A likeable enough rogue, Winston is.

Give up already 2tp.

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New Zealand First is still considered in the rag-tag bunch of opposition parties, with English saying National isn’t conceding anything to Winston Peters’ lot ahead of the election. Dunne’s decision, rather than being a roadblock for National to form the next government, was more a small blip. That mood for change Dunne was sensing? National had always been expecting this election to be tough.

How about you win the election first Bill, before pissing on the other parties. And no, you expected to romp home easily a year ago. You've only now realised people are waking up to your lies, and are concerned that NZ is becoming an increasingly worse place to live.

I love NZ, it's a great place to live.

I love it too, but I'm worried it's no longer a great place to live for the most vulnerable in our society, and I'm worried about the declining opportunities for those less fortunate than myself.

I don't usually have that much in common with chartered accountants (I have far too much personality, I'm told), but I heartily agree with what they're saying here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=1190...

Its not only an issue of the most vulnerable. Most young middle income professionals in Auckland won't be able to own their own place in their own country.

Not only Auckland Fritz. Other parts of the country too where there are large numbers of foreign buyers or Aucklanders bringing their money to 'invest. Auckland investors can be as big a curse as foreigners in some parts for pushing prices up.

Looks pretty much iron clad that Winstone will hold the balance of power following the election. Assumption seems to be that he would go with Labour but anyones guess really. Look out for him to be boarding a yacht for some R&R and leaving everyone to sweat for a week or two before coming back to the negotiating tables.

National need to do something REALLY FAST to counter Jacinda's momentum. This needs to come from the women in the top ranks of the party. Anything Bill English does will just make things worse. Nicky Kaye, Paula Bennett, Judith Collins, Maggie Barry...etc. time to step up.

mikeo. You make an interesting point. I too have been wondering why Bennett particularly, has kept such a low profile. I suspect it indicates the Nats have decided to focus on their fiscal prudence and crisis management experience rather than try to compete in the glamour/soundbite gameshow from the other side, which they would have no show of winning. Hence Joyce being English's main point man.

The reason PB is keeping a low profile, I suspect, is because there was a lot of pot calling the kettle black over the MT affair.
Interesting that as (the deputy PM nonetheless) someone who loves the spotlight as much as the Khandallah bakery, she has dropped off the radar significantly in the past month.

Last I saw re Paula was some puff piece in Stuff where a girl had donated her hair to charity and Bennet was photographed waving the severed ponytail around.

You'd think ponytails were a subject they'd try to avoid.

God help us if Paula Bennett were ever to become prime minister.

With a cast including Paula Bennett, Judith Collins and Simon Bridges, I suspect that National behind the scenes very much resembles the House of Cards television show. A united front, most of the time...but the scheming that must occur with such a cast of characters boggles the mind.

Lol. Yeah exactly. Don't mess with The Crusher. :)

Nicky Kaye might have a slim chance, but Bennett, Collins or Barry??!!
On second thoughts bring all three of those on.

Good call mikeo. Thinking people need to get behind National and distance themselves from the politics of envy of the left. Labour and their cronies will reduce the size of the cake in their headlong rush to make sure everyone has an equally sized share (no matter how much effort).

Yes vote National to keep up growth in suicides.

what relevance does that particular policy have on this website?

Suicide in NZ is not a policy, and is it *extremely* inappropriate for Dictator to trivialise such a tragedy by using it as an election insult to throw.

And what does it say about New Zealanders that someone thought it was cool to push the thumbs up to such a post?

It's an area National has neglected and done nothing to solve.

If you are think, and now I am getting a bit angry, that youth suicide in NZ is going to be solved by any government having a *POLICY* against it you are a complete and utter fool.

What should or could we do about it Ralph? (or just ignore it like the housing market?)

Not trivialise it in this manner to begin with.

Umm so you'd do nothing? Hey we take this issue seriously and we take it seriously by not trivialising it?

What should or could we do about it? (you've given a position of inaction, not beneficial action..)

Don't put words in my mouth to justify morally bankrupt thoughtlessness.

As far as I know, no one on this web site has EVER suggested that the answer to youth suicide in NZ was to do nothing. Not any writer, not any contributor and not any poster.

There are many things that can, should and are being done about youth suicide. More can surely be done. But this is neither the time nor the forum to discuss such a matter and especially with posters whose main goal seems to be to throw an endless stream of unthinking vitriol and insults at people whilst pretending to hold the high left wing moral ground because they 'care more about people'.

If you are a fan of Labour or Green and want a change FOR THE BETTER, then I suggest you take good long look in your mirror and start with yourself by showing some basic respect for your fellow citizens.

Ralph - it would appear that I struck a nerve there? Are you this friendly in person? I have plenty of respect for those that deserve it.....and they are the people who actually care about the welfare of other people......

Do you feel that you've been disrespected some how by my comments, which are directed towards discussing how we improve and aid the welfare of other people who are struggling in our society at present? I'm confused how this is disrespectful..?

Well thank goodness we have the "care police" to instruct us as to who deserves respect and who doesn't.

Anytime you support the idea ANYONE in government is personally responsible for the suicide of their lost child you will find I am "not that friendly". There is a time for every purpose my friend, a time to be friendly and a time to be angry. Timing is so important in life I find.

So busy standing on people on your way to "care for the people". In case it escaped your notice, politicians are also "people" and have families and issues and problems - just like everyone else.

My condolences Ralph.

Every other country in the developed world has a lower youth suicide rate. Maybe we could ask them what they do to have less suicides? More funding for mental health and awareness of depression, suicide etc would be beneficial. Or maybe try to make housing cheaper and better quality to reduce family stress and domestic violence and conflicts? Or maybe stop sweeping the topics of suicide and mental health issues under the rug and pretending it doesn't exist?

Maybe we could Wildcard. But INSTEAD we choose to trivialise it and pretend it's nothing more than a useful insult to be thrown in an election year.

And then we click on the "thumbs up" button because we feel it's more important to insult people than care about those who have lost loved ones.

And if we are called on it, we continue to trivialise it by attempting to spin in into a slightly more sophisticated insult.

Umm like how John Key trivialised the foreign buyer issue by claiming people were xenophobes if they took issue with buyers that had foreign sounding names?

Keep digging your moral hole. No, the two examples are as different as water and sunlight. Losing a child to suicide is a whole different scale of life issues than disagreeing with Mr Key on the academic accuracy of xenophobia.

Sorry to hear that Ralph - my condolences.

Who is trivialising it? Youth suicide is a legitament problem, and one that needs addressing. No one is making fun of it, or saying it's a good thing. If anything, it's such a taboo subject with so little awareness that it rarely gets discussed or receives attention, so almost nothing is done to reduce the rate.

Yes and No.
I am pretty confident growing inequality contributes to our overall levels of suicide.

Labour's policy to put a nurse in all secondary schools is a really, really, really good policy - for more than just this reason, but it will have a tremendously positive effect on physical and mental health/drug abuse/families at risk and other issues that respond so extremely well to such early intervention.

My mother was a school nurse at a secondary school in the US. Have seen it work - I went to the same school and she was the most trusted and well liked staff member there. It's just the nature of how people see nurses - they aren't seen as authoritative, rather they are seen as nurturing.

Talk to the students at secondary schools and they'll tell you this kind of medically trained confidant is exactly what is needed.

Kate do secondary schools not have nurses or access to visiting nurses - genuine question. In the late 1990's I was working in the health area. Every secondary school in area - eight in total - including two rural secondary schools had not just access to nurses but also school based GP clinics. The GP clinics were unusual, but the area had very proactive GPs that worked in the schools on a roster system. It wasn't a government initiative but one that I believe is still going today.

If Labour is going to put nurses in to schools that don't have GP clinics, they really need to be nurse practitioners.

Here's the latest assessment I've read of the current services;

http://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/nursing-se...

And here's the Labour policy announcement;

http://www.labour.org.nz/youth_mental_health

And here's a more recent report from Youth Health Services;

Analysis of survey data on the health and wellbeing of students at schools with and without school health services gives some evidence of the effectiveness of those services, although such survey results do not allow any unequivocal finding in this regard. The most notable results were in the mental health domain: there was less depression and suicide risk among the students in schools that had higher levels of health
services. Looking more closely at the specific qualities of the school health services that were particularly
associated with improved mental health outcomes among the students, there was significantly less depression and suicide risk where the school health services had health professionals on site; where the hours of health professional time per week per 100 students was higher.

https://www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/assets/fmhs/faculty/ahrg/docs/Youth%20%E...

Yes we found that health outcomes among students improved when the school counsellor/nurse/gp worked as a team and physios were available at some of the schools as well. I don't know what happens now, but back when I was involved with school GP clinics the GPs worked pro bono, so you got the GPs who had a genuine interest in youth health. They were totally confidential consultations, parents were not informed unless the student chose for them to be. Some interesting PTA discussions at times.

The challenge can be what happens when those students leave the safety of a school based health system. I am aware of kids mental health, in particular, improving under school health care only for it to deteriorate after they leave.

Thanks for the links.

Plenty of schools have nurses in them already. Our local school has a nurse on site during all school hours and a sore throat clinic.

It could be a symptom of poor governance? From leadership that has been fixated on the wrong things?

To quote Abraham Lincoln, this argument is as thin as "a homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death."

Perhaps Lincoln would know, suffering from severe depression as he did...maybe we could do with someone of his type to lead the country, to help those in need?

Why would a man with the integrity of Lincoln ever partake of a NZ political landscape where the voter currency is mindless, thoughtless, empty personal abuse?

Did you not just complain about someone dishing out insults and here you don't seem to apply that standard to yourself?

In my opinion this sort of comment is totally uncalled for.

Could you outline why people should vote for National? Could you name a few things National has done to make NZ a better, more equitable country?

More on housing than Labour did when prices started exploding in the 00s. Not enough, but if you want to start asking who did more then that's a big tick for the blue team. Funny how these things only matter when you're in opposition.

We've really covered this off before, though. Labour were guilty of incompetence for not identifying and acting on a major problem.

National are guilty of much more cynical behaviour for campaigning on the urgent need to address the housing crisis, then denying for the next nine years the very existence of a housing crisis. And still they deny the crisis that existed when they were in opposition (as you raise) exists now: http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/election/2017/08/nats-alone-in-denying-hou...

National appear to have been committed over this last nine years to doing as little as possible that would have any real effect on making housing more affordable.

If it really was an urgent crisis in 2007 - as they said in their campaigning - why have Kiwis seen no urgency about resolving the crisis?

Because even now only NZ First have any useful policy for addressing the supply side of the housing market. So unless Winston can get his local government policy onboard during the negotiation nothing is likely to change under Labour.

Real effect obviously depends on a number of factors (including how much of the housing crisis is driven by speculative demand), but I'd agree his local government policy should be part of it. But at least a coalition including Labour and NZ First would appear more philosophically open to addressing the housing crisis rather than window-dressing the housing "pressure".

That much is still progress.

In terms of actually addressing the housing market, what do we mean by that?

Shouldn't we first decide how many people we want living here then provide supply that meets the demand? (and actual demand, of owner occupiers, not darklords and speculators)

And if we have a blackswan event, recession and see a bunch of people pack up and jump ship, do we want to be in a position of oversupply if we continue a mad rate of building?

You raise some good points.

The immigration tap can be opened as much as needed, whenever needed. I suspect that'll only become more so over the next few decades as climate change starts to bite.

At some point we're likely going to have to pay the piper for the excesses of this unproductive accumulation of private debt in housing, and we're going to have to start investing in actual productivity instead. We've got a fair way to go before we've anywhere near overbuilt though.

Well, National has been in government for the last 9 years and home ownership is the lowest it has been in circa 50 years, private debt is the highest it has ever been and houses are now upwards of 10 times the median income. How is any of that a big tick?

And why do you mention Labour when the question was what has National done?

Houses were still somewhat affordable when labour were voted out. Labour proposed to build 10k houses per year at the next election while national thought it was better to do nothing (apart from giving nick smith a clipboard and the odd tiny fix). Big fail national.

.Just make stuff up, that's fine, the wool has been removed from too many eyes now, to go back. We have had this politics of envy garbage up to here, and we are over the reigning politics of greed.

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Winston is someone you do want inside the tent pissing out rather that outside the tent pissing in .

Problem is he may just overplay his hand , and make a real shambles of things

I am not sure if he would turn up to parliament in a burkha though.

Good grief..he wants me to return home. No chance billy...youve specialised in making NZ ers homeless, now it's your turn.

Were there any homeless people in NZ when Labour were last in power?

yes but not as many and not as public

What is the 'right direction' he keeps referring to? I'm yet to understand what our vision is as a country other than expensive houses and high immigration...And yet, there's been 9 years for National to clearly articulate what their plan is to take the country in the 'right direction' and yet it still seems to be unclear....

Any National supporters know what he's talking about?

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That's the problem. National has no vision, or empathy, or compassion, or concern for anyone except for Boomers and property investors. They have no clue as to how NZ is slowly getting worse, and their only schtick is "we are not Labour."

A government of the Boomers, by the Boomers and for the Boomers.

The generation of self licking ice cream cones...

The greatest generation birthed the greediest generation. On the plus side Gen Y (Millennials) will soon out number them (if they don't already), I quite like the youth for the most part, they seem to have a quite an empathetic outlook, more socially aware, I've got high hopes for them.

Mmmm, some of them. But in my experience many of them also have an over inflated view of themselves which does not match the reality

Didn't we all?

English has left his run too late.....been in government for 9 years whats new.

Change on the way.

Not necessarily.

Labour's on a roller right now - but that will fade.

Not much beneath the gloss that Jacinta brings - but still a genuinely nice person by all accounts.

The problem is not a Jacinda - the problem is her party ; a (much) bigger problem is the party she would be relying on to govern and has MoU with.

Hi Paashaas,

You are exactly right.

I disagree.
She seems very intelligent and articulate to me. And compassionate (yet tough)

Problem is with all political parties so have to choose among them and like it or not this election is for change.

Median hourly wage was $18.80 in 2008 and $23.50 in 2016 (Stats NZ), if you adjust the 2008 figure for inflation median hourly wage would be $22.08 (RBNZ calculator) so the real wage rise in NZ over the last 9 years was $1.42 or a 6.4% real wage increase in almost a decade. What prosperity are we risking? The biggest risk for New Zealand is reelecting National in my view.

Here is an interactive quiz that lets you work out which party's policy is closest to your preferences. Doesn't take into account personality or trust though. http://www.onthefence.co.nz/
The herald has a run down of each parties immigration policy (and a photo of a pretty Indian girl) http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11907957

Thanks for the laugh

The only people hat would ever vote National in this current situation are those that don't give a flying one about any future or anyone else but themselves. As long as the rentals keep going up in value and they can have a luxury retirement it doesn't matter what anarchy is left over for the future generations.